Saturday, November 17, 2007

Church in the Round

I invite you all to check out a new blog that I hope will allow some space for those of us interested in being church together, in a new kinda way, here in Flagstaff. The blog is called 'church in the round'. I hope that this can become for us the place where an ongoing discussion and creative expression demonstrates what it means for us to be church in a way where power is shared and God's hospitality is freely offered...for all.

I invite you to check in from time to time to see how this little emerging thing unfolds here in flagstaff for a few of us who will be sharing in the church planting business. it's another experiment that i came up with and we'll see how it all works out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

speaking up for the poor

Last night I attended a community meeting around establishing a new shelter for homeless in Flagstaff. The meeting became emotionally charged with words that summed up to mean 'not in my neighborhood'. Check out the local write up here.

I had to respond, at least my little part for speaking on behalf of the poor, helping to raise the voice that not only do we help the poor, but they help us to become more human through the way we see them as real human beings, a stretch for many. I was pretty frustrated with their comments and short sighted vision for helping those without as you can tell. Either way, here's my letter to the editor:

"As a concerned citizen for the homeless and as a clergy frequently assisting such individuals myself, I was looking forward to a hopeful conversation around a community yearning to help the poor. What I found was a sad expression of community social interest more concerned about self-preservation than hope-filled community engagement. I can’t say I’m completely surprised, but I do believe we have to stop demonizing people and believe that if our communities are as strong as we say they are we can use that strength to perpetuate goodness rather than to allow ourselves to be controlled by fear. We will never get anywhere in our journey to become more human if we can't understand that how we treat the poor is a statement for how we really think about ourselves. I came to the meeting with my children in hopes of allowing them to see what a community caring for others might look like. Unfortunately, I was not able to shine the light bright for them for this kind of witness. No doubt, fear is driving this. It is interesting to me that many are afraid for how the ‘bad’ people coming to the neighborhood while simultaneously registered sex offenders exist right down the street (I looked online!). Do we really think the Flagstaff shelter wants more negative activity engaging the neighborhood? Until we can make a home inside ourselves for the homeless, identify with their radical brokenness, I wonder who the homeless really are in this town?"

What difference does it make? Well, I guess I'm more interested in being faithful to what it means to live in the way of Jesus, this of course, means sharing the values of God with a community who may or may not listen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


The following quote comes from Roberta Bondi in an article through Christain Century, Nov. 2, 2004. I was reading this morning in preparation for today's sermon (i know, leave me along about sermon prep).

These words remind me that was is of ultimate importance for an authentic spiritual community, the communities the emerging world is trying to facilitate, is more concerned with embodiment than intellectual pursuit or elitism seeking to justify its existence. I especially appreciate the last sentence below from Bondi.

"While I had continued to read and be profoundly moved and strengthened by the early monastic abbas and ammas, I was happy where I was, teaching Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac to small classes of students. I didn’t want to leave. But the imagined voices of my early monastic teachers wouldn’t leave me alone. "You have a choice," I heard them saying. "You can continue teaching Semitic languages which you enjoy, or you can act on what you know -- that we have saved your life over the years, and we can save the lives of others as well if you chose to teach them about us."

What could it look like for a community of forgiveness and hope to embody the very existence it seeks to understand and describe? At what point does embodiment shift to become more important than philosophical constructs or argumentation? I truly believe the emerging community, in its seeking authentic expressions of life through faith, at its heart desires to be a community embodying this truth in its own fractured and fumbling way. It is not a claim of truth by what it says, but by how truth itself becomes embedded in its very ethos; reflecting fruits of this very truth, of love, peace, patience, kindness, etc.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

sacramental meanderings

Check out my friend tamie's blog. She does some great imagining around sacrament, sacramental life/eucharist and its place in and through church communities. If, as many are saying that all of life is worship, than how is this exploration different? Perhaps, this is the tangible connection and reminder we all need over and over again that both shapes our identity and purpose; one that is deeply connected to the divine in and through all of life.

One of the essential leanings through this eucharistic theology/ecclesiology directly references God's own presence as lived out in and for the world. The challenging part of this perhaps is the polarity of connecting what goes on inside the gathered community, as church, and what that means for the scattered community, again as church. Embracing this seemingly ambiguous reality is the key that this notion is attempting to either bridge, breakdown or critique. There is a simultaneity in its gathering/scattering ethos that, for some reason, we so quickly want to compartmentalize or segregate out from the world instead of connecting it to the world as a means for receiving/extending The Life that is offered to us, individually and collectivelly, and lived through us, individually and collectively.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

rant: what the hell is this emerging community doing?

I'm sick and tired of assumptions that think the emerging community is a relativistic, 'anything goes' cocktail of a little 'my friend Jesus' here and a little 'whatever you want' there, with a couple candles, icons and a cup of joe thrown in to make everyone feel cozy and warm and somewhat spiritual (but not too much for fear of stepping on toes). The emerging church is not a free for all exchange of ideas for the sake of 'i'm ok, you're ok', with no serious engagement for who God is, what God is up to and how God wants us to get on board with it all.

What it seems to me, both from my own experience and my fumbling attempts, is that the emerging churches are enacting a radical notion of living out the tension between a missional congregation in relationship to its context. This, of course for some, seems to create an ambiguous relationship that appears to allow everything. The emerging church radically and authentically seeks to wonder and live out what it means to be church, not just talk about it. The essence of this answer is best arrived at in relationship to the very God who brings it all into existence: the trinity, a holy community engaging in 'mutual interpenetration.' That is, through Jesus God is known in time and the Spirit, Jesus continued ministry of (not about) God is made manifest through communities willing to listen and engage and ponder and serve.

I found this great quote from Scott Frederickson who wrote a paper that was presented at Luther Seminary's first annual missional church conference in 2005. In this thesis entitled "The Missional Congregation in Context" he is talking about this tension around congregation and context. He mentions 'coinciding' as it refers to the trinitarian undrestanding of God coinciding as three persons, persons as it relates not the independent identity of each, but rather, the interdepedent identity, the importance of each 'person' as it is defined in relationship to and through the other. This 'otherness' is key! He says:

"The God of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, has created and redeemed this coinciding. The very incarnation of God into the Son and the resurrection of the Son to God is the way Christainity claims the context. This means that a missional congregation and its context are related. The missional congregation claims the reality of the context (the Incarnation) while not being subsumed wholly beneath it, in order to show the context of a deeper reality (the Resurrection), namely, that God is constantly at work in the world."

I love this idea for how context/culture is redeemed as God's presence in and around the incarnated Christ (Holding). I love that we can be free to engage alongside and with our culture and context without "being subsumed wholly beneath it." (Hospitality/Humility) I love the idea that we could challenge and interject hope that God hasn't given up on the world and that God can be trusted. I love the idea of sharing a new vibrancy for what God is doing in the world and how it is available for all.

What is difficult, I think, for people to understand about the emerging communities is this differentiation between the essence of church and the serious engagement with and alongside of culture.

This is not the end of the conversation of course. This is only one slice of pie, or whatever taste this might leave with you. Hopefully, it's something nourishing and somewhat tasty and doesn't just taste like shit, although a few of you out there might think so. The emerging community seeks to embody this challenging notion of missional community contextualized. It certainly is a venture that leaves many wondering 'why has everything become so watered down'. On the other hand of course it has energized others to re-engage an environment, context/culture, that has dismissed us for dissing them, trusting profoundly that both, working on each other, are necessary for God's continuing emerging work in and for the world.